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Palestinians Sort Through 8 Years of Mail Held by Israel

JERICHO, West Bank—Palestinian postal workers in the West Bank are sifting through eight years’ worth of undelivered mail held by Israel.

In recent days the Palestinian postal staff in Jericho has been sorting through tons of undelivered mail in a room packed with letters, boxes and even a wheelchair.

The Palestinians say Israel has withheld delivery of post shipments to the Palestinian territories through its national postal service since 2010. According to Palestinian postage official Ramadan Ghazawi, Israel did not honor a 2008 agreement with the Palestinians to send and receive mail directly through Jordan. Mail was indeed delivered through Jordan but was denied entry by Israel, causing a years-long backlog.

“It was blocked because each time they (Israel) used to give us a reason and an excuse. Once they said the terminal, the building that the post was supposed to arrive to is not ready and once (they said) to wait, they’re expecting a larger checking machine (security scanner),” he said.

Israel says the sides came to an understanding about a year ago on postage delivery but that it has not yet resulted in a “direct transfer,” according to Cogat, the Israeli defense body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs in the West Bank.

Cogat said in a statement that the one-time release of the ten and a half tons of mail was a “gesture.”

Jericho resident Rami Baker said ordering goods by mail has been a challenge.

“The problem that I suffer from is that the mail is very delayed. For example you order something and the website will tell you it will arrive within 20 to 30 days and after 30 days you get a note that it reached Jerusalem or Israel. After that, a day or two later, we come and check with the Palestinian post office here in Jericho and they say we did not receive it yet from the Israeli side and this thing takes months,” he said.

The development highlights the tight controls Israel maintains over many aspects — even the mundane like postal delivery — of Palestinian life.

The Associated Press

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